FORBIDDEN EMPIRE (VIY)
Snow blizzards, set props on fire, broke oil lamps and wooden barriers, and turned a simple photographed stump into a flaming, breaking tree, falling in tranquil lake waters
Forbidden Empire (Viy in the original Russian title) is an adventure fantasy, stereo film, set in 18th century thrilling and mysterious Transylvania.
Our involvement revolved around the action and atmospheric scenes, where we added snow blizzards, set props on fire, broke oil lamps and wooden barriers, and turned a simple photographed stump into a flaming, breaking tree, falling in tranquil lake waters.
Being on the run, the main character’s carriage smashes through a wooden barrier, breaking it in two, and shattering an oil burning lamp, setting the carriage on fire. The barrier and lamp break, ensuing fire and environment interactions were fully created by us, using FumeFX for the fire, Thinking Particles for some ground interaction sand and gravel simulations, meshed with Thinkbox Frost, which performs great for these granular effects. All was rendered in VRay. The workflow was fast, with quick iterations, and fully 3D, since the stereo delivery ruled out some traditional comp tricks.
The blizzard sequence was shot in a quiet winter day, and that asked for blowing snow to be added. We split it into snowflakes and snowclouds layers, and used multiple of these layers at different depths from the camera, matting with key scene objects, to build up the snowy atmosphere.
The burning tree shot was probably the most challenging. Building the burning tree was relatively straightforward – we used our established FumeFX/Thinking Particles workflow to create smoke, fire and embers elements. But the tree needed to reflect in the lake waters, and a branch needed to break off and actually fall in the lake. We quickly decided we don’t want to replace the whole waters – they were beautifully shot, and there was some delicate interplay with the reeds and grasses near the shore.
Instead, we went for replacing only the area where the water interacts with the falling branch, and add the reflection from the CG tree on a delicately animated plane to the photographed lake. We approximated the tiny ripples in the quiet lake, and adding the reflection worked nicely.We used the compound reflection as a card for the CG water to reflect, and this helped blending it with the real water.